Welcome to Downtown Santa Barbara
The dynamic heart and soul of a postcard-pretty city with a fascinating past.
This vibrant, energetic town center stands as an ode to Spanish architecture—a nod to the Europeans who named and settled the area from the 1600s on—with red tile roofs, white stucco walls, intricately wrought iron railings, and kaleidoscopic tiles the predominant feature of both homes and newer commercial businesses. Known for an abundance of notable restaurants, shopping, entertainment, business, and culture all densely packed into one aesthetically pleasing and easily walkable sphere, this is the urban crux where Santa Barbarans go to see and be seen.
The most pedestrian-friendly breadth of the city, downtown is where Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish heritage is on vivid display—and where it seamlessly mingles with modernity. Here, patrons of local favorite Handlebar Coffee look out over a 1782 Spanish fortress, and the 1873 Lobero theater neighbors a strip of contemporary boutiques. Yet the city’s commitment to Spanish Revival architecture—even national chain banks boast classic red rooftops, white-washed walls, and colorful tiles—visually tie the whole ‘hood together into one delightfully charming package.
Young professionals, families, long-time residents, retirees, and more, all drawn to downtown’s bustle and beauty.
A flourishing area to live and work, to reside downtown is to be at the center of the action in the city. Business development has been actively encouraged in this area, making it Santa Barbara’s most metropolitan domain.
What to Expect
Tons of tourists mixed with locals, side-by-side historic and contemporary buildings, plus scads of culture and charm.
Both a centralized area for employers like Sonos and dozens of startups, and many a visitor’s first stop in the city, downtown has a local attraction, eatery, watering hole, or gallery to satisfy everyone from history buffs to foodies, shopaholics, and art aficionados. The atmosphere is California-casual, and the people are friendly and welcoming.
Endless opportunities for shopping, dining, and entertainment, with the stunning coastline just a short distance away.
State Street is the main artery of the downtown area, easy to explore on foot or aboard the electric shuttle that runs its length. On Tuesday afternoons, the famous byway shuts down traffic to make way for a flourishing farmer’s market, filled with the ample bounty of California produce, locally-grown flowers, and folk music. And on any given night, crowds flock to events at historic downtown theaters such as La Granada and the Arlington. State Street eventually flows down to busy Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara harbor.
A thriving culinary scene with ample access to regional wineries.
Santa Barbara’s downtown area is known for its variety of celebrated eateries, from Arnoldi’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in the city, to the modest La Super Rica Taqueria—touted by none other than the late legendary resident Julia Child—to the original outpost of famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. The popular Urban Wine Trail also picks up here, with a booming collection of tasting rooms from area wineries concentrated around East De La Guerra Street and Anacapa Street.
New apartments, duplexes, townhouses, and condos mingle with older cottages, ranch homes, and bungalows.
Multi-family buildings have arisen throughout the coveted downtown area, but move just a few blocks from central State Street and a mish-mash of quaint single-family homes stand at attention. Most residences start at $1 million.
You'll Fall in Love With
The respectfully preserved historic buildings add character, dignity, and grandeur to the area.
Locals are proud of their storied history, and the city makes it a priority to maintain and preserve a number of historic buildings. Even a short spin around downtown brings you past significant landmarks like the handsome El Presidio State Historic Park, the Casa de La Guerra museum, the proud Old Mission (and its gorgeous rose gardens), and the stately Courthouse, with its jaw-dropping tower top view of downtown.